Saturday, October 19, 2002
S L I C E  O F  H I S T O R Y

How Sikh Light Infantry evolved
Shammi Kumar

THE military and religious fervour present in the soldiers of Sikh Light Infantry can be attributed to the indomitable spirit imparted by Guru Gobind Singh to their ancestors. These soldiers are the offspring of Baba Jiwan Singh, Sangat Singh, Katha Singh (Ramdasia), Bir Singh, Garja Singh and Nabbau Singh, who had been baptised by Guru Gobind Singh.

Guru Gobind Singh recognised the martial potential of the downtrodden and baptised them in the fold of Sikhism, which did not differentiate on the basis of caste or creed and held everybody equal. This emboldened the downtrodden to fight against injustice, tyranny and persecution. When in November 1675, Bhai Jaita presented the severed head of the ninth Guru to Guru Gobind Singh, he was touched by the great devotion of this Dalit and expressed his great admiration for his unflinching courage and fortitude. Flinging his arms around the neck of Jaita, he declared: "You are a son of the Guru". Grovelling slaves became doughty warriors under the stimulating leadership of Guru Gobind Singh. They never shrunk back in fear and were ready to rush into the jaws of death at the bidding of their Guru.


During the time of Guru Gobind Singh, Bhai Jiwan Singh Rangretha, Sangat Singh and Katha Singh Ramdasia took part in all the battles fought by Guru Gobind Singh with Mughals and Pahari rajas. According to Ibbertson in his book Castes and Tribes in India, Jiwan Singh was a great general who fought in the battle of Sirsa and laid down his life in the battle of Chamkaur Sahib along with Katha Singh Ramdasia.

In 1750, Sikh Misls came into vogue and Misldars like Guru Gobind Singh and Banda Bahadur accorded recognition to the martial potential of Rangrethas. The structure of misls was very secular. Sikhs, irrespective of their caste and race, were enrolled in the army of misldars. When Ranjit Singh became the ruler of Punjab, he also recognised the military prowess of Rangrethas like his predecessors. According to Ibbertson, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had great admiration for their bravery and he attached one company of these Rangrethas to each battalion. These down-trodden Sikhs bravely participated in all the battles fought by Ranjit Singh.

When Britishers took over the reigns of Punjab, they organised a military system which included Mazhabi Sikhs and Ramdasia Sikhs They were greatly impressed by their superior physique and the martial and religious fervour imparted by Sikhism. They utilised the services of Sikh soldiers in various military campaigns in India and abroad. With World War II came the need for additional manpower and this saw the formation of a Mazhabi and Ramdasia Sikhs regiment in 1941.

This name was changed to Sikh Light Infantry by the then Director of Infantry, Major General Sr Reginnald, in 1944.

The soldiers in Sikh Light Infantry comprised Mazhabis and Ramdasias and other Sikhs belonging to the scheduled castes.

Thus, the martial spirit of Sikh Light Infantry soldiers can be traced back to the earliest days of Sikhism.